Nov 9, 2021
STANDING IN THE MIDDLE of a pool, in a big white box with square cut-outs through which sun rays (or neon lights, depending on the hour) ethereally stream, overlooking a series of Technicolor blue-and-purple pools that cascade down towards the ocean beyond, you feel like you’re levitating in a spaceship. It’s an unfamiliar feeling on a tropical island, where you might expect more rustic luxury from your resort, but that’s the old guard of Koh Samui, which after a decade-long growth spurt has a style for every beach-bumming sensibility.
Hyatt Regency Koh Samui captures the outward-looking, open-door approach you’re more likely to find in an urban hotel these days, with their open-plan cafe-culture lobbies and the lively buzz of guests indiscernible from walk-ins. There are waterfalls, grassy knolls, and wisely landscaped levels so you can cultivate your own space. There are also lots of design elements aiming for levity, such as the huge nighttime projections that will trip you out, and the curved, clear shower stall and WC in the vast bathrooms of the Pool Villas that will transport you back to that spaceship.
It’s playful and kid-friendly but in a thoughtful way. Up top, to the side of the main pool the waterslide spills into a shallow pool, and hedged off a few steps away is a grassy playground including a rope climb and a kid-sized airplane. This means that whether reclining on loungers or having lunch alfresco, parents have a decent chance of keeping an eye on their kids because they’re likely to be in this vicinity — especially when the cotton-candy machine gets churning. (On a Sunday afternoon, the line was as long as New York’s hottest club, but the children were somehow better behaved.)
Hyatt Regency Koh Samui opened in July, aka the middle of Thailand’s last lockdown, and with no flights arriving on the island, the resort’s customer base necessarily started off as not just domestic but hyper-local. By appealing to their neighbors, they’ve cultivated a strong sense of community that, to a new guest, has strong pull. The young son of gregarious general manager Adrian Pulido laughing with his friends on the trampoline, a little leader in the making. Guests bumping into people they know and exchanging warm greetings. A convivial atmosphere over drinks and dinner in SESUN, the vibrant beach bar with a live band on weekends.
The resort doesn’t really traffic in exclusivity except for in one respect: the Presidential Villa. It’s made up of two structures wherein the living room hides a kitchen to make entertaining the 10 people who can fit at your dinner table easy and there’s a hanging swing chair for your Instagram pleasure. Next to this, the bedroom suite (with spacious garden-ensconced outdoor bathroom) faces the sea and sliding glass doors on two sides allow for sliding directly into your pool.
Presidential Pool Villa (3)
And the pool, well, speaking of Instagram, this one is an orange-, burnt sienna-, lime-, rouge- and golden-tiled rainbow that was a bold design choice (not to mention operations-cost choice) and is a likes magnet. For anyone who’s grown jaded of floating breakfasts, let me recommend you order up one of their why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-before crystal-clear trays, the better to see your toes and the tiles over your morning coffee.
If you’ve checked into this villa, you likely won’t be leaving it. Except maybe a few steps down the candlelit path to the private-dining Oasis on the Rocks on a little promontory jutting out into the sea. Here again, another resort cliche reborn by Hyatt Regency Koh Samui with an impressively elaborate degustation menu. There was smoke, there was fire, there was everything smartly presented, perfectly cooked and the correct temperature — a feat for an outdoor meal not close to the kitchen.
That being said, a big benefit of this property is having options. Pick your price point, your need for privacy, access to the playground, proximity to the sea, desire for a deck or a lawn or a plunge pool… it’s a smorgasbord of sleeping choices, all with paintings, statues and pops of color dominated by ocean hues that add a homey feel, and in a relatively small footprint so that you’re never a long walk to breakfast.
It’s modern but rooted, literally, in history. The site is home to 80 yangna trees, white, weathered, Lord of the Rings-style towering beauties that local fishermen used to use as navigational markers. Hyatt Regency Koh Samui has creatively and in some cases quite lovingly built around them, so that a tree grows in the restaurant that bears its name (Yangna). Culinary director Frederik Farina also has a lush herb garden on site that is sure to blossom into something great considering he helped start a plantation in verdant Khao Yai when he worked at Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok.
A big believer in local ingredients, Farina also brings some pretty tasty personal heritage to the table. Sesun’s focus is sustainably caught fish and crustaceans, often grilled over flaming coconut husks — clearly Thai — but also invitingly mixed into Mediterranean specialties, many from his native Sicily.
“In Sicily, seafood is quite something,” he told me. “Everyone is cooking at home — mama is always preparing seafood soup. You go up the stairs and everyone has the smell of their own special soup coming out of their front doors. The base for half the dishes is seafood soup.”
The base for his excellent paella is a seafood soup, a very strong red base that allows a rich juiciness to remain in the rice even when cooked down to the crispy socarrat. Another of Farina’s cultural-melange must-tries? His homemade limoncello infused with Thai basil. If you’re lucky, he’ll offer some up as a digestif after dinner. Though if you’re luckier you can have it while admiring the centuries-old yangna trees from the futuristic cube that overlooks this newest incarnation of Koh Samui.
hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/thailand/hyatt-regency-koh-samui/usmrk; doubles from Bt3,999
All photos courtesy of Hyatt Regency Koh Samui